About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Balance transfer cards 2020: A godsend when you need more time (but don’t fail the test)

Hi lil lovies. The holidays were wild, eh? I’m writing this in a medicated haze with flu-like symptoms. But I wanted to write. And I’ve been meaning to talk about is how I’m using balance transfer cards to:

  • Meet my current financial goals (which I need to update)
  • Smooth out large, unexpected expenses (like when my AC quit in July and I had to get a new HVAC system)
  • Give myself a jump-start to purchase big items when I want them (I bought myself a rowing machine because I really really wanted one and I’ve been using it regularly)

This is because I didn’t have enough in a savings account, which will change this year. So hopefully I won’t have to rely on them in the future.

But for now, they’ve helped me consolidate a lot of balances spread over several cards with big interest rates. I paid a one-time balance transfer fee, and have a 0% APR rate through April 2020. So I haven’t paid a dime of interest since. And honestly? It’s been the one thing that’s given me time to get caught up.

balance transfer cards

Balance transfer cards aren’t a perfect solution. But they’ve bought me time and helped me avoid a ton of interest while I got my plans together

The test, of course, is paying them back before the 0% promotional rate expires. If you don’t, you’re right back to where you started. 🌀

The good thing is these rates are a year or more (usually more). A lot can happen in a year.

While I’m glad balance transfer cards have been available to me as a financial tool (which is absolutely how I think of them), moving forward I want to depend on savings rather than having to buy myself time.

Balance transfer cards 2020 – should you, could you, would you?

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Freebird Promo Code for $10 Cashback: “OUTANDOUT”

Here’s the latest Freebird promo code you can stack for up to $10 cashback on Uber and Lyft rides booked through Freebird.

Here’s how to do it. After you download Freebird, enter this.

Freebird promo code: 

  • OUTANDOUT” – $10 cashback ($5 for each of your first 2 rides)

Freebird lets you book Uber and Lyft rides through their app – and you’ll earn points on each ride. Once you earn 5,000 points, you can cash it out for $10. So you can potentially do even better when you add points to the mix.

freebird promo code

I love using the Freebird app for Uber and Lyft rides

Plus, any Uber and Lyft credits and promos stack with Freebird!

Freebird promo code powers up your Uber and Lyft apps

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My First Month of Diligent Saving & Net Worth Is up $20,000 – December 2019 Freedom Update

November was the first month I got down and dirty with my new financial goals. Having them in mind gave the month shape and purpose – I felt for the first time in a while that I was working toward something urgent and real and palpable that I could measure.

If naming things is empowering, creating a plan is getting superpowers. I watched as each dollar flowed into and out of my accounts.

Slow and steady wins the race, but I have an out-of-control, flaming emergency! I have GOT to pay off my credit cards by April 2020 before the 0% APR rate expires. And I’ve got over $14,000 left to go.

Last month, a combination of strong market and aggressive payments boosted my overall net worth to $115,806 – a full $20,000+ increase.

And while it’s nowhere near the $500,000 goal I want to hit, it’s an awesome start. And to that end, this is my first Freedom update (Freedom is what I call money). I hope I look back on these posts and marvel at my progress. One day…

December 2019 Freedom Update

Getting started on my FIRE in a big way – getting rid of credit card debt is my #1 prerogative right now

I know “never say never” buuuut… I will NEVER have credit card debit ever again as long as I live. In the future, I’ll dip into my healthy savings account. Because this hurdle really freaking sucks.

December 2019 Freedom update

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It’s Official: SoFi Money Will Reimburse All ATM Fees Worldwide, Even Forex Charges

sofi money review

Welp, that’s it. Now that all SoFi Money ATM fees are gone, SoFi Money is officially the best checking account available today. It’s great right out of the gate, requires no futzing or maintenance, and now, they’ll even reimburse Visa’s forex fees internationally – so you get free withdrawals with absolutely zero fees worldwide.

They’ve tried hard to overcome any hurdle to be the best checking account around. You get:

  • Free, unlimited, and INSTANT ATM withdrawals worldwide. Even if Visa charges you a forex fee, they’ll reimburse that too
  • 0.2% APY on any balance you carry
  • Zero fees, no minimums
  • Easy to use app and website
  • $75 bonus when you open an account and make two direct deposits of $500 each – bonus appears in a day or two and it takes 2 to 3 minutes to set up

I’m proud of their efforts. And I’m switching to make this my full-time checking account after my next pay cycle.

Well how ’bout that?

Yes, I’ve had a Chase checking account for over a decade. And I’ll keep it because it’s free, and for the incredibly rare times I need to do something in a branch. But for everyday banking, bill payments, and my financial clearing house, I’m going all-in with SoFi Money. #officiallyconverted

SoFi Money ATM fees – nothing to see here!

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Roundup of Targeted Amazon Offers With 1 Amex, Chase, Citi, or Discover Point – Save on Holiday Shopping!

There are lots of targeted Amazon promotions out there now. Which is awesome, because Black Friday are Cyber Monday are next week! When you combine these deals with inevitable sale prices, you stand to save buku bucks this holiday season. Or you can do like I did, and stock up on dog food. 😹

With all of them, you’ll save either a percentage or dollar amount off your purchase – and you only have to use a single bank point to trigger the deal. This year, you can use 1 point from the following programs:

  • Amex Membership Rewards points
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • Citi ThankYou points
  • Discover It or It Miles points/miles

So if you have any travel rewards credit cards, dust ’em off and check if any of these deals are targeted for your Amazon account.

Targeted Amazon promotions 2019

Save on Amazon shopping when you use a single bank point and get a targeted offer. I got several this year!

I’ll share the current promotions, tricks to get them to appear, and my usual bits and baubles. 🧿

Targeted Amazon promotions with 1 bank point – Holiday 2019

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Need a Checking Account With NO Fees, Minimums, or ATM Charges EVER? Try These.

sofi money review

It’s been over 4 years since I first professed my love for the Fidelity Cash Management account – one of the best no fee checking accounts. And about the same amount of time since I wrote about the Aspiration Summit account.

But that was before SoFi Money came on the scene. That account has no fees – but also free unlimited ATM withdrawals worldwide AND 1.6% APY on any balance you carry. It’s now the one I recommend most if you’re looking to dump your brick-and-mortar bank (and you probably should).

best no fee checking accounts

There’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s SoFI Money

All are fantastic checking account options because there are no fees, no minimum balances, and no direct deposit requirements. Essentially they’re free to open and keep forever, even if you never use them. Even better, these accounts reimburse ATM fees from ANY ATM in the world. And there are no hard credit pulls to open.

There are a couple of key differences. But, bottom line, you should have at least one of these accounts!

Best no fee checking accounts

1. SoFi Money

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Todoist Review: How I’m Using It to Organize My Life and (Travel) Goals

todoist review

It’s about time I update my Todoist review. I’ve been using Todoist to organize my days since 2015 – almost five years by now! It’s an app and website I use every day and I can’t imagine life without it.

That’s because it’s a perfect place to brain dump. If I have more than a few things I want to get done, I find they form a circular loop in my mind until I put them into list format. And seeing them sequenced calms me and puts me back in control of my thoughts.

Over the years, I’ve used Todoist to keep track of:

  • Books I want to read
  • Movies and TV shows to watch
  • Yearly and life goals
  • Recurring tasks around the house and in life
  • Things to do when I travel
  • Self affirmations
  • Things to buy when I’m running low on something
  • And of course, daily tasks
todoist review

To say I love Todoist would be a huge understatement

Not only is it a great place to store to-do lists, but it’s become a huge part of getting ahead in so many ways. I truly spend my life in this app.

My Todoist review

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My Audacious Plan to Increase My Net Worth to $500,000 in 5 Years – November 2019 Freedom Update

I’ve been wanting to talk about personal money stuff for the longest time. After all, my tagline has always been “Investing. Positivity. Oh, and travel.

Fear held me back because I didn’t want to sound like I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was afraid of impostor syndrome. And revealing financial details can introduce shame because you’re officially throwing out your yard stick for everyone to see.

But you know what? I started this blog over six years ago before I knew what I was doing with miles and points and learned as I went along. I got a lot of stuff wrong, things changed, and I grew. I was scared then too. But also:

  • YOLO
  • Eff it
  • Jump in both feet first
  • Learn as you go
  • Start somewhere
  • Do it ugly
  • Nothing is ever lost by creating

The biggest point of contention was that – I’m 35 now – a strapping young buck to be sure, but when I see other financial bloggers retiring at 30 and I still have student loans and credit card debt I’m like… feeling so behind.

This is me 10 years ago in LA. I wish I’d done more to help him (he wasn’t thinking about FIRE) – but I can start helping future me right now

But by what measurement? I can’t – and shouldn’t – compare someone else’s end point to my in-process. Although I wonder… what the hell have I been doing for the last 15 years? 😵

In the spirit of starting somewhere and being where you are, I want to keep myself accounted for and confess my dirtiest financial deeds.

November 2019 Freedom update

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SoFi Money Review: Free ATMs, 0.2% APY, No Fees, & $75 Bonus – I’m Impressed

sofi money review

I took the bait – so there’s my Sofi Money review. Everyone’s abuzz about SoFi’s cash management account, SoFi Money, because you get:

  • Unlimited, free ATM use worldwide allowing you to use any ATM that accepts Visa for free AND they’ll reimburse any fees that Visa charges (!) – an amazing perk for travelers
  • 0.2% APY on your balance
  • No fees, no minimums 
  • Sub-accounts to save for your goals, and joint accounts for your S.O.
  • Blazing fast sign-up – I had an account open in 2 to 3 minutes
  • $75 bonus when you open an account and make two direct deposits of $500 each – and it posts within a day or two

Plus, when you refer someone who uses your sign-up link, you get $25. Get on the gravy train (and thank you for using my link to join)!

Because of these features, I’m considering making SoFi Money my everyday checking account, even though it’s online-only. For over a decade, I’ve banked with Chase and can’t remember the last time I visited a branch.

My Chase account and SoFi Money are both free to have (I have an old Chase account that’s no longer offered), so I’ll switch everything over to SoFi Money for a while and see how it goes. Nothing to lose and free ATMs + an easy-to-use site and app to gain.

sofi money review

SoFi is offering a $75 bonus for opening an account and making two $500+ direct deposits

While Fidelity, Schwab, and Aspiration all have no-fee accounts with free ATM withdrawals (I compared them here), none of them have an APY on the balance you carry or immediate ATM reimbursements (Fidelity refunds you within a few days, the others can take up to a month).

And while I’m wont to offer yet another bank account option, scoring $75 for a couple of minutes of work is nothing to turn down.

You can sign-up for a SoFi Money account here.

SoFi Money review – the ultimate free bank account, especially for travelers

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Is Citi Double Cash Now the Best Card for Plastiq Payments? (Mortgage/Rent, Auto, HOA)

citi double cash plastiq

Plastiq is an online service that allows you to pay nearly any bill using a credit card. And now for the “gotchas:”

  • There’s a 2.5% fee to send a bill payment
  • You can’t make loan payments (rent, car note, etc.) with a Visa or Amex card, but residential rent and HOA fees are OK
  • You CAN make loan payments with a Mastercard or Discover card
  • Capital One cards currently don’t work in their system right now
  • Most cards only earn 1 point or mile per $1 spent, which doesn’t make the fee worth it

That said, there are a lots of situations you’d want to use Plastiq despite the fee:

  • To complete minimum spending requirements in literally seconds and earn a sign-up bonus
  • When they run a promotion for free or discounted payments
  • When paying the fee gives you wiggle room for unexpected expenses
  • To reach a big spend bonus for a free hotel night/airline elite status credit, depending which card you have
  • If your card issuer is running a promotion for bonus miles/points/cash

And there are two cards with a 2X earning rate that work with Plastiq. The first is the Amex Blue Business Plus, which earns 2X Amex Membership Rewards points on all purchases, up to $50,000 spent per calendar year. That’s cool, but many peeps don’t qualify for small business cards, or don’t want to pay personal bills with a business card.

I value bank points at 2 cents each, so earning 2X points per $1 spent is a 4% return.

If you maximize your per-point value, it can easily offset Plastiq’s fee. Like when you get an international long-haul flight in a premium class. For that reason, I’ve been using my Amex Blue Business Plus on Plastiq a lot – but as noted above, I can’t pay my mortgage or car payment.

Enter the second option…

Citi Double Cash Plastiq payments

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Aspiration Checking Account: No Fees, Free ATMs Worldwide, & Caring for the Planet

aspiration checking account

I’ve had my Aspiration checking account since I first wrote about it waaaay back in 2015. When it launched, there was no app and funky web access. But they were committed to sustainable business practices, which I really liked. Since then, they’ve created an app and a beautiful website. And widely expanded their care for our wonderful planet.

Then and now, this is among the best checking accounts if you travel – and care about – the Earth. ✈️🌎

You can open an account with only $10. And there are no fees at all to have or use it – including for up to 5 ATM withdrawals per month anywhere in the world. If you pay any fees to withdraw your money, you’ll be reimbursed at the end of each cycle.

They also offer cell phone insurance up to $600 when you pay your phone bill with the debit card, up to 1% APY when you direct deposit $1,000+ per month into Aspiration savings, and you’re FDIC-insured on balances up to $2M. Plus, none of their profits are spent on oil drilling, pipelines, or fossil fuel projects. Instead, they donate 10% of all earnings to charities.

Aspiration Checking Account

“Do well. Do good.” is Aspiration’s tagline. If you want a fee-free checking account (including 5 ATM fees reimbursed per month) with a conscience, this is for you

If you’ve been looking for an account to use when you travel abroad, this one is perfect. Plus, you get $25 free in your account when you sign-up for an account.

Aspiration checking account basics

Find & Save Every Bank Account Bonus With This New Site

bank account bonus

Wanted to share a new site my friend Phil made. We met at FinCon last year in Orlando, and kept in touch since. He told me about an idea for a website to track all the checking and savings account bonuses out there and I was like… that would be amazing.

And now it’s here.

If you like to earn extra money by opening new bank accounts, you must check out this site. Introducing EveryBankBonus.

You can find bonuses based on:

  • Your state
  • If direct deposit is required or not
  • Minimum balance required
  • Monthly fees
  • Ability to open online

It’s pretty great.

bank account bonus

Easily find every bank offer available to you, and filter based on many factors

Here’s more about how it works!

Find every bank account bonus

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